The Great Firewall of ISIL

The Great Firewall of ISIL

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We’ve all heard about China’s internet censorship programme, nicknamed “The Great Firewall of China”, a sophisticated system that monitors all access to the wider internet and blocks all forbidden content. Iran operates a similar system, and Russia has one of its own (albeit a milder and more sporadically used) version. Even the UK has a number of internet blocking programmes, sometimes collectively referred to as “Hadrian’s Firewall.” The newest player in the internet blocking arena is ISIL, also known as Daesh, and their methods look like they come from the internet’s Stone Age.

To keep the population in its self-declared Islamic “caliphate” in line, ISIL controls the flow of information in and out of the provinces it occupies. Civilians and militants alike are affected by the new policy.

Since earlier in the year, ISIL has been monitoring access to the internet – quite literally, access to the internet itself. Previously, in cities likes Raqqa, Syria, “people would go to the cafes and pay money for internet and have a password or a username,” said Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi – an activist with the group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently. “They were sitting in their homes and could access the internet” connecting to WiFi extenders operated by many neighbourhood internet cafes.

Now, private internet access in banned. To go online, “you need to go to the internet cafe and you need to have your ID and they will register your name, the time you enter, and the time you’re out,” says Raqqawi, who uses a pseudonym.

This allows ISIL to monitor internet usage in its territory. But monitoring methods might seem somewhat crude. ISIL fighters enter internet cafes to check “patrons’ internet history and make sure it’s in line with their laws,” Business Insider reports.

This Daesh-wall may be crude, but it is effective. Viewing prohibited material can lead to arrest, and in a territory where stealing is punished by amputation thought-crimes are not taken lightly.

The monitoring fosters an atmosphere where objective information is hard to come by, and all that is left is propaganda disseminated by ISIL itself.